Retired RI Supreme Court Justice Flaherty tests positive for coronavirus


PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Retired Supreme Court Justice Francis X. Flaherty has tested positive for the coronavirus, resulting in a shakeup of swearing-in ceremonies as politicians take office this week.

Flaherty, who retired from the state’s highest court on Dec. 31, was scheduled to swear in both the incoming House speaker, Warwick Democrat Joseph Shekarchi, and Warwick Mayor-elect Frank Picozzi this week, but can no longer preside over the ceremonies after testing positive for the virus.

“Retired Justice Flaherty confirmed to me this morning that he has tested positive for the coronavirus,” Rhode Island judiciary spokesperson Craig Berke said. “He is doing well, recovering in isolation at home.”

It wasn’t immediately clear how the retired justice contracted the illness, but Berke said that he hadn’t been hospitalized. Flaherty joined the state’s Supreme Court in 2003, appointed by Gov. Donald Carcieri, and will be succeeded by newly appointed Justice Melissa Long.

Flaherty served as Warwick mayor for three terms in the late 1980s. The newly elected mayor, Picozzi, announced Monday that District Court Judge Stephen Isherwood would administer his oath of office in lieu of Flaherty on Tuesday.

House spokesperson Larry Berman likewise confirmed Flaherty will no longer oversee Shekarchi’s oath of office when the legislative body meets Tuesday. Shekarchi, who received the nod from his colleagues to serve as speaker, received a phone call from Flaherty — a fellow Warwick resident and friend — over the weekend telling him about the positive test result, according to Berman.

Supreme Court Justice Maureen McKenna Goldberg will administer Shekarchi’s oath of office instead.

Eli Sherman ( is a Target 12 investigative reporter for WPRI 12. Follow him on Twitter and on Facebook.

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